On March 11, advocates across the country abstained from work owing to a call given by the Bar Council of India (BCI) against the alleged brutal assault over agitating lawyers in Chandigarh and Jaipur by policemen during the first week of March. Although at both places, advocates were protesting for different reasons, the (un)provoked crackdown over their agitation by police prompted all Bar Panels across the country to come in their support. What happened later needs to be briefly summarized. While in Chandigarh, the FIR registered against erring advocates who allegedly roughed up a police head constable was finally quashed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court owing to a settlement worked out between the two sides, whereas in Rajasthan, firstly the High Court ordered shifting of nine police officers including Police Commissioner of Jaipur pending an inquiry upon which the personnel of state police even became miffed and later on state government also accepted all the key demands of protesting advocates. Amidst all this, an impression is always sought to be disseminated that Men in Black are always right and those in Khaki are always wrong. When both advocates and policemen, being custodians and protectors of law, are an integral part of the system of Administration of Justice, why is there any fight for supremacy between them ? Without commenting on the merits of the case, I, although being a member of the legal fraternity, would like to assert that even if some of our fellow mates have been implicated wrongly or any high handedness has been meted out, we as members of a noble profession and as dignified officers of the court ought to fight any sort of injustice in a lawful manner duly respecting and following due process of law instead of taking law into our hands. It is trite law that "Be you ever so high, law is above you". Be that as it may, now-a-days, instances have become common when advocates' associations across the country suspend work on trifle issues mostly after getting involved with policemen. The ultimate sufferers are the hapless litigants who come often from far flung areas, mostly after cancelling their day's commitments and priorities, so as to attend the court. Although a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court in Harish Uppal v. Union of India (2002) had ruled that advocates have no right to go on strike, despite this work suspension by advocates has become a common feature. The Apex Court directions in the ibid judgment for constitution of district/state/national level redressal committees comprising members from both Bar and Bench to sort out possible disputes/conflicts, whenever they arise, are either yet to see the light of the day in letter and spirit, or if constituted anywhere, have not been able to live up to the desired expectations. There is an urgent need to resurrect such mechanism(s) so that such unfortunate situations can be avoided.
Hemant Kumar, Advocate